Is Melon a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender?
Now a nine-year-old, Melon has the dubious distinction of finishing second on all four visits to the Cheltenham Festival, including when beaten a neck by Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle in 2018 and a nose by Samcro in the Marsh Novices’ Chase. The Medicean gelding can be considered a 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup contender insofar as he holds an entry in the ‘Blue Riband’ event, but the fact remains that he has yet to win beyond 2 miles 1 furlong, over hurdles or fences, so his stamina is questionable. That said, his close third in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on his first attempt at 3 miles over fences provides some hope for the 3 miles 2½ furlongs of the Gold Cup, although he is available at a dismissive 33/1 ante post. By contrast, he is a top-priced 12/1 for the Ryanair Chase, over 2 miles 5 furlongs, which may be his preferred option at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, according to Patrick Mullins, who rode Melon at Cheltenham and Leopardstown, he makes ‘an awful lot of ground in the air’, a fact that may enter calculations with regard to the 2021 Grand National in due course. At the time of writing, the bookmakers are equally dismissive of his chances at National, again offering 33/1 ante post, but it can be be argued that he wouldn’t be the first classy two-and-a-half mile steeplechaser to win the Aintree marathon. Of course, he still has his stamina to prove over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, never mind 4 miles 2½ furlongs, but it will be interesting to see how his season progresses.